Case presentation hinges on an ability to balance your approach for each and every patient. Also, it would be a huge mistake to think that these articles about case acceptance are pointed just towards the doctor. In fact, your staff is more important in each of these steps than you are. Share the articles with them and use them as impetus for a super-productive staff meeting. Case acceptance begins with that first phone call from a prospective patient. Following close behind that is the first time they come in and interact with the front desk team and then eventually a hygienist or assistant. Case acceptance is a process, not a specific point in time at which you tell the patient what they need. This process needs to be staged in such a way that we get patients to show up, pay for their treatment, and refer everyone they know. Invest the time to run and study the reports on undone or uncompleted treatment. You will be surprised that you will have 45-60% of the treatment you diagnosed going uncompleted. This is a symptom of flawed protocols reflecting the mediocrity of your case presentation systems.
I want to take the time to set the stage with how your personality, as well as the personality of each staff member in your office, drastically affects case acceptance success. In broad general terms, there are two types of doctor personalities (you can extend this to hygienists and other staff members, too).
- The Assertive Doctor: This behavior often reveals itself in protocols where the doctor sees and diagnoses the patient prior to the cleaning, if it were appropriate. To clarify, we are just going to consider a new patient coming in for the first time to have a cleaning and checkup. Surely there are not any offices still surviving today that insist on never cleaning teeth on the first appointment. This stands out as the number one reason that patients never follow through with treatment. They called your office and asked for an appointment to have their teeth cleaned, and you didn’t do it. Bad start. So back to the overly assertive doctor. This doctor tends to tell the patient everything they can possibly find to fix, without listening to the patient’s concerns and not finding out what the patient wants, what their dental IQ is, and what they can afford. We are required by law to tell them what is wrong, but we must learn to give them what they want, too. Assertive doctors come across overwhelming the patient and are perceived as pushy and overbearing. Kind of like a dentist turned timeshare salesperson. They have an air of superiority and often times talk down to the patient. You can tell if you are an overly assertive doctor if patients come to the front and want to speak with their spouse or get a second opinion before scheduling any treatment. This type of doctor often makes the fatal mistake of wanting the dentistry more than the patient does. This line, if crossed, dooms the relationship and makes it impossible to repair. The second mistake the assertive doctor makes is thinking that every patient wants what he or she has to sell. Nothing could be further from the truth. We find that this type office may do many crowns but has very few patients each day and overall a very poor retention rate and only mediocre productivity.
- The Non-assertive Doctor: This is the personality of a person who is approval addicted and always avoids confrontation. They will only treatment plan what they know the patient will accept. Being liked is more important than helping the patient want what they need. It is usually found in offices with high case acceptance but poor productivity with few crowns diagnosed or prepared. This doctor tends to confuse patients. Clinical findings and recommendations are not clear. You can tell if you fall into this area if patients come to the front for scheduling without the faintest idea of what the doctor wants them to do next.
The bottom line is that neither approach works well with patients. Our goal is to have a more balanced approach with each patient. Ideally, you want to embrace the Platinum Rule: Do unto others as they would be done unto. Each patient is handled based on his or her individual personality and needs. This balanced approach, if coupled with an attitude of trying to give them more of what they want than focusing solely on what they need, leads to a huge boost in case acceptance. If you are not willing to happily give them what they want you will never have the opportunity to finish all of what they need.
The final point is that we need to partner with our team to make sure we maintain a balanced approach. The best team members can (and hopefully will) take an assertive doctor and make him or her look caring and compassionate. Likewise, they can (and hopefully will) help the non-assertive doctor come off looking more competent.
This is how you Summit: Practice management done right.
Michael Abernathy, DDS
PS—Ever wonder why I sign off these articles with my personal email and personal cell number? I want you to reach out, call, start a dialogue and consider what you can do now to grow and preserve your financial future. There is a way and it begins with a call and a frank discussion of where you are and where you want to be. That is how you Summit.